On a solemn grey morning, when the skies were beset by heavy clouds and the brows of my husband by equal measures of frowns, we were on our way to Mount Fløyen. A city mountain in Norway.
Lille Lungegårdsvannet, the lake featured in the lead photo and with the unpronounceable name which sits pretty at the centre of the city of Bergen, gives you an idea of the kind of day it was.
A colony of seagulls took flight above our heads, alarmingly low, which meant we had to duck if only for the sake of retaining our scalps — quintessential you see in achieving the climb to Fløyen. Birds taking flight. Ah what a romantic sight ’tis on a sunny morning but under smoky skies it acquire shades of the portentous. Alternately, it reveals the workings of a fanciful imagination.
The afternoon before, we had driven from Norheimsund to Bergen, the gateway to the fjords on the west coast of Norway. Our apartment was near the main wharf so we had time to dawdle over tea and a substantial breakfast. Adi was suitably miffed: How anyone could Imagine the prospect of any kind of activity that required him to climb anything, leave alone a mountain. That was the dilemma. We were in that phase of our travels where Adi had not warmed up to hiking on holidays. It was akin to tailing Tuktuk, our beloved lab, around the house and then dragging him for his bath.
Time and you, with laudable perseverance, may bring about changes in your spouse but watch out for the postscript. When Adi took to hiking holidays, he did so with a vengeance. He led me up hills which no one charts (for a reason) and where the wind in the grass raised my hair and hackles maniacally.
Before I digress into the future, our path from the apartment to Fløyen took us past the busy wharf and the largest church of Bergen in its red-brick Gothic glory and its pristine wooden interiors. My favourite part of admiring a church is to tip my head back and gape at its spire which almost always seems set to pierce the heavens.
It was chilly and people were queuing up for the Fløibanen, the funicular that for the sum of NOK 45 (£4) whisks you up to the top of the mountain in the matter of a few minutes.
But who wants five measly minutes when you can have an hour and a half of panting up steep hills and stairs – in the cheery company of a husband who refuses to let a smile crack his visage. Halfway into the climb we had trudged up a steep hill, past doll-like slatted houses in shades of white and yellow with their orange-red roofs. In the backdrop lay the steely grey waters of the harbour and a church steeple or two.
The contrast was stark when a fat black cat scampered past us. At the same time, Adi chose to lean his head on a pillar and bemoan his fate.
“What kind of a holiday is this? I want beer and food,” he bit out.
“But you just had a big breakfast,” I pointed out righteously.
This charmer of mine stomped ahead in reply. In this mode, we continued up the hill. When we had passed by enough red, black and blue houses with enviable views of the harbour, and we thought that we had done it, that we must surely have reached the top, I skipped up some 100-odd stairs. Turned out, they were the private stairs of a cluster of hillside houses.
Retracing our steps down, we reached the foot of a steep forest path which led into the midst of a pine forest, its grounds primeval and mossy in parts. It could easily pass for an enchanted world where we were the only ones in Troll Forest, or were we? We should have stopped to have a word with the resident trolls but there was no time to be lost. Heavy showers were forecast for the next hour.
If Adi had been spectacularly grumpy, I took over from here. My vast reserves of joy had been depleted because there is only that many tantrums one can weather.
And I will have you know, dear reader, that I can do it with panache too.
Almost magically, Adi’s black mood lifted. Between the two of us, we had handed over the baton of grimness from one to the other with perfect synergy.
It behoved my beloved then to placate me. Legs trembling – unknown muscles in the body had been worked all this while – I suddenly spotted the Fløyenguttene, otherwise known as the Boys of Fløyen behind electrified fences. They were white and horned with innocent faces and baaa-ey measures of conversation. Cashmere goats. Please know their importance in the scheme of things and be dignified in your comportment when you do make their acquaintance. They are employed by the local agencies to keep the vegetation at bay.
A brief look at a bald and squat troll besieged by the crowds and a quick coffee at the café later, we decided to experience the Fløibanen on our way back to the centre of Bergen.
Now when you find yourself in Bergen, and if the heavens do not burst upon you, do skip the funicular. Take the long way up because in life you have at times got to take the winding way up. And if a few of them are dirt, why you have aced it, champ.